Well it's that time of year again: elections.
I had a few treatises prepared for laying out my philosophy on how Garrisons should operate and some pointers for Garrison Commanders. I will probably post those soon. In the meantime, though, I think it worth a few minutes to post about the election process and leadership.
Leadership is a big word and if you ask a thousand people what it's all about you'll probably get a thousand different answers. Some will focus on integrity, some will highlight the need for intelligence, others will go with compassion, or proactive thinking or strength or wiles or delegation of authority or good planning skills. We could go on with decisiveness, diplomacy, enduring patience, ability to stay calm in chaos, people skills, and quick thinking. And so on and so on.
Other discussions of leadership look to the trappings of authority. Bookshelves are lined with biographies of leaders with heroic poses on the cover. The media likes to talk about leaders like they're celebrities, modern day royalty. We have images of leaders on horseback, leaders holding a sword, leaders going down with the ship, leaders damning the torpedoes, leaders making a brave stand. Our pantheon of heroes is full of hero figures.
But let's cut to the real center of this nugget. Leadership is about service, plain and simple. And any of the above descriptions are added onto that like toppings on a sundae. We can dress it up any way we want, but it's about SERVING those who elected you.
Service is a far less sexy ideal. It's about spending long hours doing the dirty work no one else wants to do, making hard decisions that make you stay up at night, tweaking the last little detail of some boring, mundane work-a-day process that keeps the lights on and the engine running so the membership can do their jobs.
It's like hosting a big party, but you never get much of a chance to join in because you're so busy keeping the party going so the gang can have fun. It's about refilling the chip bowl, running to the store for more beverages, switching out the music to keep the mood light, working on the lights so there's brilliant dazzling effects, talking to the loser in the corner who has no one else to talk to but you gotta do it yourself because he's there for the party too and ****** someone's gotta keep the train rolling. It's cleaning up the sick in the bathroom after one of your guests yacked, then driving him home yourself while the hotties at the party are exchanging digits, only to come back and find out you're on clean-up detail and there's no guarantee folks are going to stick around to help.
Leadership isn't about being a winner, or about titles or any b.s. about authority. Authority is what you EARN by giving everyone five seconds of your time to consider their needs, then giving them a fair shot by working it out to make it happen. If you can show people you put in the hours and try to make the Legion stronger and better, then by god they'll look at you like you ARE authority. Oh, I don't mean make everyone happy - no, no - that's never going to happen. You are going to disappoint some people, it's inevitable. But if you can put together policies that take an hour to think about and then 10,000 hours to make good on, then at least the people you disappoint can look back at your work and consider maybe (just maybe) you had a good reason for doing what you tried to do.
What's this all about? I see it every year. People stick up their hand and volunteer for a leadership position. To me, that's just saying "clean-up on aisle four? I got this!" but instead a lot of that finery I talked about in the beginning of the post is what they act like is important. People get mad at each other, snipe at each other, resent their friends for running against them. Should we really let real-world politics trick us into acting like that? Is there really that much at stake that tempers flare and egos get bruised?
Here's all I'm saying: I see a lot of nominations being accepted. And nothing makes me more proud than to see people grabbing mops and heading to aisle four. But please consider the truth that that is what you are signing up for. If you're looking to be a Squad Leader or a Detachment Leader or a Garrison CO or a Legion Commander then go get some heavy duty work gloves on and be appreciative of the epic people standing next to you on the election podium. They are not your enemy. They are your greatest allies, people who are willing to say they have mop-experience. You are a breed apart (uh oh, I'm starting to wax inspiring about leaders, after all that) but you are a breed apart because you want to serve. You want to discuss some hard (and boring) topics about what you think could be improved in the Legion, and you want to talk about it for a long, long time with people who will frustrate you, bore you, insult your intelligence without meaning to (or meaning to!), and carry on and on and on.
Because there are thousands (THOUSANDS) of Star Wars fans out there who listened to the drum beat of the 501st Legion and joined, saying to the world 'we want to be awesome' and it's your job to keep their party going. Not your party, THEIR party. Whatever you do from this point on, do it with humility and patience and a never-ceasing urge to make their lives better. Not your vision of utopia, visions are nice but they can be dangerous if you block out everyone else's vision. You try to see their vision too. You call those members up in your Garrison (the ones who no one talks to) and just say 'hey buddy, how can I help you find your place in this family'. Don't email them, call them, pick up the phone and talk to your people. Connect. If you spend so much time on this that you miss out on actual trooping events, that's not a crime - but at least make sure your work makes THEIR trooping events better. And guess what? You'll be called a hero for it.
And to you voters out there, forget the fanfare, forget the popularity contest - if you're a 501st member reading this then expect more from your leader than a hard sell or a familiar name. Expect them to be the kind of leader you deserve. And whoever gets elected, you support the heck out of them for as long as you can.
So here is my call for all candidates to carry out the mission of leadership in the spirit of selfless service, and do so early by conducting yourselves like true leaders long _before_ you're elected. The party has been going on for over sixteen years now, getting cooler every year. Let's keep this party rolling.
Good luck and Long Live the Legion